Replanted church in East Nashville has new name, new pastor, new direction
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NASHVILLE — In recent years, attendance at Eastland Baptist Church, a historic congregation in the changing community of East Nashville, had dwindled considerably.
About a year ago church leaders knew that drastic changes needed to take place after consultation with the Nashville Baptist Association, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and the North American Mission Board.
Enter Jason Rumbough, a young pastor who had “caught the mission bug” while serving at The Summit Church in Raleigh, N.C., under the leadership of J.D. Greear, current president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Rumbough was serving as a campus pastor at Apex Baptist Church in Apex, N.C., when God gave him a passion to help replant or “relaunch” an existing congregation as opposed to planting a new church.
Rumbough had a passion to help replant or “relaunch” an existing congregation as opposed to planting a new church.
He had attended one of NAMB’s SEND conferences and learned that 4,000 churches across the convention closed their doors annually. After talking with a friend who had replanted a church, Rumbough decided he wanted to help take an existing congregation and help it capture a new vision for reaching its community.
The NBA church revitalization team helped Eastland form a transition team, said Rusty Sumrall, executive director of NBA.
“The team worked for 18 months in preparation for the coming of pastor Jason,” Sumrall said.
With the backing of the NAMB replant team, which provided resumes of potential replant pastors, Rumbough met with the search committee at Eastland. One moment stands out in his memory, “I asked them to tell me something good that was going on at Eastland.”
After a moment of silence, one committee member replied, “We’re just trying to survive.”
Rumbough hit the ground running and after a year he is beginning to see progress.
He recalled that when he first came to Nashville and was looking to take the Eastland pastorate, he asked people in the community about the church. Several people responded that they thought “it had closed,” the pastor said.
“I realized we had lost our connectivity with the community. I knew if we were going to see our church connect with the community, we had to focus on the community.
When he arrived at Eastland, the church was down to about 35 people. “We worked quickly to establish a community vision,” he said. The church adopted a vision statement of “Love God, Love Others.”
“We want to be a church in the community, of the community and for the community,” he stressed.
Part of the process including changing the name of Eastland Baptist Church to Hope Church. The Eastland Baptist Church name will remain on the building itself but new signage will reflect the Hope Church name, he said. And, while internally, some people will still use the name “Eastland” occasionally, it will be known as Hope Church throughout the community.
The pastor stressed that the name change does not mean the church is leaving its Southern Baptist roots. “We are Southern Baptist through and through. That’s not going to change,” Rumbough affirmed.
He noted the church has been using a prayer booklet produced by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and is teaching people what it means to be Baptist when they attend Hope Church’s new members class.
“We felt the name change reflected more of what God was going to do in and through the people that gather here at 1215 Gallatin Avenue,” he said. Hope Church officially launched April 7.
Rumbough admits the change was not welcomed by everyone. Some left, he acknowledged.
Yet, the church has seen some new growth. Six families have joined since December and the church has baptized four new believers with at least one more scheduled soon. The church is now averaging between 60-70 weekly.
“We are definitely seeing God do some amazing things,” Rumbough confirmed.
As the church grows, Rumbough’s goal is to send out “healthy disciple makers” into the community. “The gospel propels us out into the lives of others who need the gospel,” he observed.
The situation faced at Eastland Baptist is not uncommon, said Lewis McMullen, church planting specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“With Hope Church, what we are seeing is a new life being birthed out of declining dying churches. These restart/replants are built on the legacy of the previous church and is taking that legacy into the future by reaching a new generation.
“We are seeing this happen all across Tennessee but especially in urban areas where the community has changed and it takes a new vision and a new passion to reach these new urban areas,” McMullen said.
Steve Holt, church services director for the TBMB, is optimistic about the future of Hope Church. “Jason Rumbough is a gifted and passionate leader who is uniquely qualified to provide effective leadership to Hope Church.
“I believe the future is very bright for that congregation. East Nashville is a growing and diverse community and Jason is the right leader, at the right time, and the right place,” Holt said.
WHAT IT MEANS
Key phrases in church planting:
Church Revitalization or “Organic” Revitalization happens when an existing church takes steps to move toward a healthier and more sustainable environment in which greater evangelistic effectiveness, increased participation in worship and Bible study, a renewed faithfulness in stewardship, and growth in community and mission involvement become a greater reality.
Church Replanting/Relaunch refers to a process in which an existing church determines it cannot sustain itself long term without outside assistance. In most cases, that church votes to give its assets to another church or church plant that starts a new congregation in that location with a new name and new leadership.
Church planting is a process that results in a new Christian church being established.